John McLaren named interim manager
CHICAGO -- John McLaren is moving from bench coach to interim manager of the Washington Nationals following the stunning resignation of Jim Riggleman.
He probably won't hold the position for long.
McLaren's duties began Friday when the Nationals opened a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
General manager Mike Rizzo said Friday that McLaren is an interim manager for days and not weeks. He added that the Nationals have already talked to several candidates to be the interim manager for the rest of the 2011 season. Included on that list is former major league manager Davey Johnson, who is currently a senior adviser to Rizzo.
"We haven't really nailed down exactly who yet. We haven't closed any deals so I'm reluctant to say at this point," Rizzo said before Friday night's game.
"Davey Johnson is one of names we've discussed and we've talked to. He and several other names we are actively talking to," he said.
The Nationals had won 11 of 12 before Riggleman quit after a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, saying he felt the franchise wasn't committed to him over the long term.
Riggleman wanted the Nationals to pick up his contract option for next year and said the reluctance of Rizzo to have a meeting on the subject reinforced his feeling that he was merely a placeholder until the team could find someone better.
"I've never considered myself a quitter," Riggleman said Friday on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "I think if I had stayed on and it would have been festering with me, and I would have been able to manage the nine innings, the distraction before and after the game with my attitude about it and not being able to have the same energy and upbeat attitude it takes to run a ballclub, before and after the game, that would have been a distraction to the ballclub. It was already becoming a distraction, as I was getting irritated about it."
McLaren, who was 68-88 over parts of two seasons managing the Mariners, has a history with Riggleman. He was the Mariners' bench coach and replaced Mike Hargrove when he quit midseason in 2007. When McLaren was replaced in 2008, the interim job went to Riggleman, who'd been McLaren's bench coach with the Mariners.
McLaren then ended up being Riggleman's bench coach with the Nationals.
"Shocked, blindsided. It caught me off-guard. Jim and I talked all the time. I knew he'd been upset for quite a while," McLaren said Friday. "This just kept building on him, and like I said, I'm blown away. I had no idea this was going to take place."
McLaren said he'd been told he'd manage Friday night and then the Nationals would go from there. And he was fine with that.
"Winning 11 of 12, you never expect anything like this," McLaren said. "I feel bad for Jim, he's a good friend. I know he had a lot on his mind. I felt like we were going in the right direction. I was totally blindsided."
McLaren said he never hesitated when Rizzo approached him about taking the job on such a short-term basis.
"We've got to move on. Like I said, Jim made his decision and I know it was a difficult decision for him to make," McLaren said. "I don't think anybody else can answer why he did it. He has to speak for himself, and I think he has. It is what it is."
Veteran Jerry Hairston Jr. became emotional when trying to explain what Riggleman's shocking departure meant to the team.
"I'm a little upset, I'm trying not to say what I want to say. It's just one of those things that's unfortunate," Hairston said as he stood in the Nationals' dugout.
"It's one of those things where I never want to put myself in somebody else's shoes. I don't know what's going on behind the scenes. During the course of a season, we're going to have our ups and downs, but you never think a manager would probably leave," he said.
White Sox DH Adam Dunn, who spent the previous two seasons with the Nationals, said the timing of Riggleman's resignation was weird.
"I've had managers get fired. Nothing like that. That's pretty tough. Maybe I could understand it if they weren't playing well or something," Dunn said. "But it seems like things were turning around a little bit for them.
"For your so-called leader to walk out on you, that's pretty bad," he said.
Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman said he was shocked over Riggleman's decision.
"Obviously you respect the manager, you respect Jim. He's a great guy. Baseball, you're with guys so many hours a day, it's like you're second family," Zimmerman said. "He's not out on the field playing, so it's an interesting situation. It's different. Not too many people have had to deal with it ever. It's tough, but at the same time, we just have to continue playing like we've been playing and finish out the season strong."
Riggleman is the second manager in the majors to resign this week. Florida Marlins skipper Edwin Rodriguez quit Sunday, but his team was struggling and in last place in the NL East.
"For whatever reason, whenever you resign from a job, and especially this job, it takes a lot of guts and a lot of thinking," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "They used to fire managers and now they resign. That's kind of untypical."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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